‘Is the chair coming off?’ the bus-driver asked Sarge.
‘No,’ I said ‘I thought I’d leave the chair here and walk off myself. Have a nice day.’ And I went down the ramp.
Two more ramps and I was on a train to Glasgow. As I dug my book out of my backpack, I realised this was the first time I’d done such a trip without Sarge. And I began to miss him, because I am sap.
I had plans to meet friends and camp out in the pub before spending the night at my Dad’s. Another ramp and I was at the bar.
Perhaps because I am a word-nerd and a beer-snob, I might have laughed.
‘Um. Raspberry.’ And then I read a sign that said the pub would be closing at the exact time I was meeting my friends. Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed.
I drank my raspberry beer, and I waited. Nobody else was in a hurry to leave. I may have actually looked up at the sky through the trees and said ‘I’m home.’ My friends arrived, and then another one. Then we got the chair and ourselves into a rather small car and went somewhere else. I told the story of how last year four people and the chair jig-sawed into a Fiat. And off we went. Good times.
The next place wasn’t closing, so we got dinner. I kept noticing things on the menu that Sarge liked.
‘I miss him. Is that weird?’
‘Yes. But no. But yes. More drink?’
We ate, and drank. And I swear peanut-butter cheesecake was cosmically placed on the menu just for me. Because my cheese-phobic boyfriend wasn’t there. Of course I ordered it, but I couldn’t finish it. I might have shed a tear.
At one point, my best friend knocked over my drink in a frenzy when her boyfriend walked through the door. Now. I cannot truthfully say that I don’t spill, drop or otherwise despatch my unfinished drinks sometimes, Sarge or no Sarge. But as I laughed and dabbed my vodka-soaked thigh, I asked my friends, ‘Are we that bad?’ I knew they’d speak the truth.
‘Worse. You guys are worse. But we love you.’
And that’s the truth.
We decided to do shots. For purely practical reasons. There is less for me to spill. I’m not co-ordinated enough to do tequila justice. There are too many steps. I do the salt and the licking in the wrong order. It makes me nervous. So I was on the B52s, which has only one step.
Sarge texted that he was bored and working late. He wanted vicarious excitement. I texted back: Doing shots and discussing rules of grammar. Does that work?
My friends are cool.
After arguing semi-colons; I asked if anybody wanted to come back to my Dad’s; so I could beat them at Poker. It was easier to get the chair in the car the second time round. The designated driver drove his sister and me to my Dad’s house. We talked about ethics and equality and the merits of good tequila until early in the morning.
My Dad’s cool, too.
Later that day, I went up another ramp into the taxi to the train station.
‘Where do you come from?’
‘Here,’ I said.
‘Where you going?’
This seemed to confuse the driver, who changed the subject to the weather.
I was browsing the books at Waverly, when Sarge says, ‘I thought I’d find you with the books.’
I was home again.
Home isn’t just one place, because some people have lots of places. Home is the people waiting for you when you get there.
Last weekend, Sarge and I went to the pub (OK, two pubs) to meet with friends and prove that he had survived meeting my mother. We left the first pub in search of another one with an accessible toilet.
I spend half my life needing to pee, and the other half looking for an accessible toilet to pee in. I have accepted this as an interesting/annoying part of my life, and go with it. Or not. (Pun maybe intended, I haven’t decided.)
Anyway. We arrive at what has become one of my favourite places to drink. Comfy couches, generous measures, and the much sought-after accessible toilet. A girl could get spoiled. Almost.
On this night, I ordered and made my way to the bathroom, where I did not have to pop my shoulder to lock the door. Maybe that was the problem, it was too easy.
Fast forward to turning to leave. And I couldn’t. No, there was no dubious graffiti to hold my attention (although, nothing beats ‘Stephen Hawking hates karaoke’ which I read off the wall of an accessible toilet in Glasgow once. OK, maybe twice.) No, the walls were clean this time.
The door that had been so easy to lock wouldn’t unlock. That’s right. I was locked in the toilet. By myself.
The latch was, um, bent. I tried to push it through with my nail(s), which until this point I’d wondered why I’d let them get so long. That didn’t work. I may have rattled. I may have banged. I may have looked for the emergency cord, which, when needed, wasn’t actually there. I may have cursed graduating from bobby pins in my hair. I may have shouted ‘Hey, you guys?!’ And then, ‘Lo?’ And then, ‘YO!’ I may have done all of these things. And then I banged some more.
Now. I wasn’t really worried. I just wondered at what point Laissez-faire would become ‘What the hell is she doing in there?’
There was a knock. I froze. Who would it be to spring me? And who would I be to them? Would I be my-loveable-kooky-girlfriend or some-random-crazy-bird-who-locked-herself-in-the-loo?
‘It’s me, are you OK?’ When Sarge became my Knight in Shining Army Boots, this was not in the job description.
‘Um, no. The lock is (broken). I can’t get out.’
‘Oh. Right. I’ll get the bar staff.’
And he might have said, ‘My girlfriend is locked in the toilet.’
‘They said to push the latch with your finger.’
‘Tried that. Not working.’
And I heard someone else. ‘Oh. Right.’ And then, ‘Stand back. I’ll kick the door in.’
And so. I parked between the toiled and the far wall, and actually shut my eyes. ‘Ready!’
As doors go, this one went quickly I suppose.
‘We’ll have someone fix that. Very sorry. Can I offer you a drink on the house?’
‘YES.’ I’d forgotten I wasn’t speaking through a door. ‘I think so. Yes. Thanks. And a round for my friends?’
We decided afterwards we should have ordered Champagne.
And so. If you ever want free drinks, consider getting locked in the toilet. And then don’t do it.
I was sitting in an airport chair, waiting for my chair to roll through on the baggage-claim belt. Sarge and I were trying to convince the Sky Cap my chair would be through on Over-size Items, which meant we were waiting in the wrong place.
Sarge was tired, and I was just wired and wanted to get OUT. We got our bags, and then Sarge pointed over my head.
‘It’s over there,’ he said, pointing to my chair which had been where we said it would be the whole time.
Sarge went to get my chair; I did a quick scan to see everything was in the right place and transferred without putting the brakes on. ‘Let’s blow this Pop stand,’ I said.
My mother has since said she spotted me before I saw her. Not unlike our last airport hello where I waved at the wrong woman before I realised my mother was standing behind her, a very bewildered stranger who wondered why I was waving so frantically at her. In my defence, my mother and the stranger had been wearing the same coat, and I so tiredwired, perhaps I thought I was seeing double.
This time, I met my mother halfway, away from the general crowd. We speak on the phone often enough that my accent is confused, but we hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years. In the airport, under those harsh lights at around 11 pm, it didn’t seem that long at all.
I introduced The Boyfriend to The Mom, they were already saying hello as I did so.
‘I gotta pee,’ I said, and raced off as my mother asked Sarge to load the car.
I got to toilets just as they were being closed for cleaning.
Now. Some accessible toilets in America are inaccessible. Because you can’t get in, turn around, and shut the door. In a stall, the idea of a turning-circle is as foreign as well, something foreign. I don’t think it’s possible lock the door, unless you’re a contortionist. As it is, I’m double-jointed, and most of the time I can Pop-(my shoulder)-Lock-(the door)-Pee (hopefully not in my pants.)
I’d forgotten this short but all-important sequence until confronted with it. ‘And I’m here,’ I said, as I left the bathroom in search of my mother.
I asked her what she thought of Sarge.
‘He’s so handsome. You look tired.’
‘Thanks. Can we go now?’ I was already morphing back into the 12 year-old I’d been when I first left New York.
My mother only goes online when she needs directions. We got in the car, and Sarge read out the Mapquest instructions to my cousins’ house, where Sarge and I would be staying for what I dubbed Family Week.
An hour later, we’d gone through my old neighbourhood, called the house several times and passed it twice before my cousins welcomed us with pizza and a Saltire sign.
I fell asleep while Sarge brushed his teeth. And dreamt of surprises.
When my father got us to the airport early, I knew something would go wrong. If we had been ‘down to the wire’ as he likes to say, the plane would have been on time. As it was, we were early. And the plane was late.
I’d been in holiday-mode since the day before. We’d been at a ‘Scottish’ shop not long after it opened, stocking up on shortbread and other suitably-touristy-but-still-tasteful-maybe gifts for my New York family. Soon after, my Dad picked us up for the drive to Glasgow. He and Sarge packed the car with two suitcases (mine was practically empty in anticipation of outlet shopping), our cat and my chair. I sat in the back hoping that all doors would close properly so we wouldn’t lose CJ to the motorway. Sarge sat next to me, and CJ was rather unhappy in her box, perched atop my wheels.
We were ready to go.
To celebrate the impending trip, we went for burgers and milkshakes. And then to Dad’s for an earlyish night before the flight. Sarge took some pictures of George Bailey-Penguin, our travel mascot. I read from our three travel guides until dizzy with excitement. We went to bed, I did not sleep. I counted the hours with the help of the gongs from the clock, the same one I actually learned to count on as a child.
With Broadway show-tunes blasting, Dad drove us to the airport. This was a more comfortable trip without CJ, who would be holidaying with Sarge’s friends.
My Dad used the car journey to give us some final pointers on how to get the most out of NY, saying he was happy we were going, and how he’d be travelling vicariously through us. Later in the trip, I might have one too many hot dogs, one for me and one for Dad.
We left the car after handshakes and hugs. I told my Dad I’d spit off the top of Empire State Building for him.
Now. My wheels have the power to cut check-in queues. We did not, and got in at the end, all as part of the experience. Sarge had checked in online, but found out this was a pointless exercise that saved no time at all. We were sandwiched between another couple and a family wondering why I hadn’t skipped the queue. I was perfectly happy looking around, wondering where everyone was off to. Smiling at Sarge, both excited about and dreading the Mother-Boyfriend Meeting Moment.
My mood was more or less positive. More more than less. Until we got to the desk and heard those fateful words.
‘Your plane is delayed. Two hours. Iceland will handle it if you miss your connection. Have a nice day.’
‘Whut?’ I actually said this, and Sarge led me away before I could say any more. But I did. And what I said surprised me. ‘Damn it. I want to go home.’
‘Pub, pub, pub,’ Sarge said. And after we got through security, Sarge put his shoes back on and we headed beerwards.
As I sipped (a coke), I stared at the screen and mumbled or not. ‘Five years. 16 days. Surprising people. And this couldn’t happen at the other end?’
We went to the gate, when it was finally announced, by way of Boots so Sarge could top up his collection of hay-fever tablets.
We sat some more. As more info trickled down, I found myself inviting a stranger to have a drink while we waited some more.
I’ve been travelling alone since I was 12. I am so used to being on my own in airports that talking to people is a novelty.
Sarge and I took our new friend for a drink, and this time I had a beer. Karen is an an interpreter who speaks a bunch of languages and happens to have CP. We traded stories and laughs and I look forward to doing the same again, somewhere that isn’t an airport.
We trudged back to the gate, and found out that all connections were being held, as 95% of passengers had onward flights out of Keflavik. One day, I’d love to actually stay in Iceland for a holiday. That day, all I wanted to do was land at JFK.
Which we did. Three hours late, but we arrived. And so had the Mother-Boyfriend Meeting Moment.
This is apparently my 100th post! It’s been quite a trip. Thanks for reading along, and please stay tuned to see what happens next! Lx
My blogging hiatus can be attributed to going on a middle-secret surprise 16 day mission to New York. I was the surpriser, not the surprised. (Surprisee is apparently not a word, but I just used it.) It was truly awesome, and I couldn’t blog a damn thing about it. Until now.
I have about 10 posts worth of stories to share, and since I think all good stories start with coffee, grab a cup and stay tuned.